The Israeli government on Sunday approved Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s proposal to expand the police’s search powers as part of the fight against violence and crime in the Arab sector (Government Approves New Bill to Expand Police Authority to Search Homes Without a Warrant). The Sa’ar proposal comes down to allowing police officers to conduct searches without a court order in cases of suspected felony offenses. The proposal will be submitted to the Knesset for approval in three readings and is expected to pass.
The Justice Minister said at the cabinet debate: “Gentlemen, we are at war. Police and law enforcement agencies need to be given better tools to succeed in their missions. The right to life is also a human right. I tell you: I will submit more laws so that we can succeed in the fight against crime in the Arab sector.”
Some ministers expressed concern over Sa’ar’s proposal. Minister of Environmental Protection Tamar Zandberg noted that “this is an unusual thing to do in a democracy,” and warned that in the future the unrestrained police action could harm normative citizens and not organized crime.
But most ministers in Sunday’s debate were willing to ignore the potential harm to Israeli democracy from allowing one of the most brutal police forces in the West the freedom to trample one of the most basic civil rights, neatly presented in the US Bill of Rights’ Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Well, not in Israel.
Minister in the Finance Ministry Hamad Amar put it this way: “We have completely lost governance. The Arab citizen wants only one thing – for their child to return home in peace.”
This is how a deeply traumatized man speaks, not a sober political leader.
Minister of Regional Cooperation Issawi Frej, a left-wing Arab politician in the left-wing Meretz party, quipped: “I’m willing to let even the CIA in if necessary.” Mind you, when Frej says CIA, he does so with full awareness of the removal of democratically elected Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (and the United Kingdom’s MI6); of the overthrow of democratically elected President Salvador Allende of Chile in 1973; I could go on and on but you get the point. Issawi Frej is desperate, because every single day someone is murdering someone else in the Arab sector and, democracy be damned, Issawi Frej knows his people want safety, and they don’t care how.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at the debate: “We are losing the country.” This means that the new leader of Israel is convinced the country is in a state of anarchy and that his own power and authority are being challenged. He, too, is traumatized.
But you know, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, the man behind the push to turn Israeli cops loose on anyone they wish – he doesn’t strike me as being particularly desperate. He sees the new consensus of frightened political leaders as an opportunity.
On Monday morning, Sa’ar told Reshet Bet radio: “We are reviewing laws regarding arrests and sopping protection extortion. Law enforcement agencies need to be given the best tools to deal with the phenomenon.”
The Justice Minister argued that his temporary order to expand police search and seizure powers is balanced. “All the concerns are over things that don’t exist, while we are facing a threat that claims victims every day. We are dealing with situations when there’s a case of a serious crime and a concern regarding destroying evidence,” he explained.
Here’s a funny observation: Ha’aretz, that bastion of liberty and civil rights completely ignored the new temporary decree on Monday morning. One can only imagine what the newspaper would have looked like had the Freedom of Police Act been proposed by you know who. Say it ain’t so, Mr. Shoken…